It’s the first month of my year-long adventure –The Ordinary Life Project – and for those who are reading my blog posts for the very first time, this project is about dedicating a year to celebrating the joys of ordinary life.!
In order to enjoy the ordinary, one must be light-hearted, thankful, and forgiving.
So this month I began my project with a focus on being light-hearted. I tried to journal about my experiences every day, nothing too fancy or too heavy. Some days were single sentence entries, but I did it so that at the end of the month and then eventually the year, I will be able to evaluate my progress.
Okay, so let me begin by sharing why I included being light-hearted in my project. A little more than a year ago I voluntarily participated in a simple paper-based temperament assessment. It was a task at my weekly women’s fellowship group. I wasn’t surprised by the result – I was grouped with the melancholies. We were the moody, hard-to-please, picky, yet deep and thoughtful, creative, self-disciplined perfectionists. The thing is everyone is a combination of two temperaments – one primary and one secondary. Phew! Thank God for small mercies. It’s much cooler to say you’re a melancholy-choleric. Sounds more hopeful, doesn’t it? (Oh and before I forget, cholerics are project people). Anthropologists say temperaments are biological and are hard to change. Well, I’m not looking at a complete temperament makeover. I am just hoping to have an updated version of it – the now even better type – I mean, I know I’m the queen of mood swings, but I’m sure I can take control of many situations.
Being the first month of the project, I thought it would be best to pick the task areas I’d like to concentrate on to get the ball rolling. ‘Baby steps’, I reminded myself, ‘nothing overwhelming.’
Nourishment: Increase greens and exercise
Community: Be part of someone else’s ordinary life
My Mind: Self-control
Work: Be flexible
Easy Peasy plan?
At least that’s what I told myself. Rule #1 Be your own cheerleader.
New Year’s Day lunch was a delicious veg meal – dahi (curd) kadi, rice, and masala bhindi (okra). Yum! I was so pleased with myself. I looked up from my plate with a cheerful smile hoping that my folks were kicked about this great start when my eyes met my mother’s and she had this “why?” look plastered all over her face.
“What?” popped out from my mouth.
“It’s New Year’s Day,” she replied.
My simple, delicious meal wasn’t a feast. In our household, non-vegetarian food and celebrations go hand in hand. My mother loves her greens, but for nearly seven decades now she’s found herself seated at a New Year’s Day lunch table laid with different types of meats and a small salad somewhere in the corner.
I tried to make light of the situation with a wink. “Let’s shake it up this year, mama, and be experimental.”
Ha! Who am I kidding? I didn’t buy my own light-hearted chit-chat. Here I was trying to do right by our bodies on the first day of the year, and I didn’t feel appreciated for the effort. But the truth is none of my family members volunteered to be part of my project. I was grabbing them by the arm and forcing them to join me.
Learning #1 Ask, don’t assume.
Of course, I made it up to them that night. Thin crust pizza for dinner (eye roll**).
A solo trip to the motherland. This one could have gone all wrong from the very beginning had I not chanted “be light-hearted … be light-hearted”, repeatedly. (The husband thinks my chant sounds more and more like Rancho’s meditative mantra All Izz Well. Rancho is one of the characters in a Bollywood blockbuster movie Three Idiots).
Coming back to my India trip, it began with a 1.5-hour flight delay, which meant I was going to get stuck in peak Mumbai traffic when I landed, hence throwing me off schedule for everything else I’d planned. It was time to chant! The chanting became louder when I was seated next to a man whose snores could make a bear take to his heels.You see, small setbacks like this can trigger some of us. The only way to make the best of this trip was by zipping my mouth shut. No whining. That’s what I tell my daughter. It was time for mama to put a lid on hers too. But I’ve noticed the moment one makes tall plans the universe conspires against the planner. The next morning I realised I’d forgotten my pair of jeans at home. So I hit the store and bought myself a new pair. When I left the store and got into the autorickshaw (Indian tuk-tuk) I realised I’d lost my sunglasses. It was getting harder by the minute. I focussed all my energy on completing the work I’d gone to India for in the first place. I was determined to not let the universe win. The commute, long queues at government offices and chaotic metro railway construction work across the suburbs weren’t making things any better. When I got back to my mother-in-law’s house she saw my face and knew that I was ready to explode. But I didn’t. All I said was I’d like to go back home to Bangkok, soon. Did that short sentence just ruin my day-long effort to not whine? Some might say yes. But I’m going to take it as a small win and applaud myself for the effort. That night I slept well. Despite the fact that I landed up spending some extra cash on items I would otherwise not have purchased had I been a little more careful, I was happy. I had intentionally picked up a pair of jeans that was a much lighter shade of blue from my usual colour palette. I’ve always wanted to buy one but I kept putting it off hoping someday my thighs would be the right size to wear them. I decided not to wait any longer and made the purchase. ‘Now’ is the only moment you are guaranteed anyway, so I seized it.
I left Mumbai spending more time having valuable conversations with my family and friends rather than discussing topics that weren’t in our hands. It sure felt good.
Week 3 :
Workwise this was a big week for me. It began with a fabulous review by one of the book bloggers reviewing my debut novel ‘Love Is Never Easy’. But the next reviewer didn’t share a similar opinion. I was shocked when I saw how she’d rated my work on several parameters. Her written review was much kinder than the numbers thankfully. But it stung. I was staring at my first non-positive review. No writer wants to read those reviews or have them up on the Internet for the world to read. I didn’t know how to react. So I did the unthinkable. I slept off. I repeat. I did the unthinkable. I slept off. Now had I encountered a similar situation a month earlier, I probably would have re-read the review 12 times, then re-read my novel three times, followed by a 45-minute review dissection with my husband and chances are I would still not be happy with our discovery. Surprisingly, I had no trouble sleeping that night. In fact, I slept for seven hours flat. My mother had to knock on my door to remind me that if I didn’t get out of bed, my daughter was going to be late for school. After dropping my girl off, I went for a long walk. I experienced an uncommon peace. The sleep had helped. My nerves weren’t bunched up anymore. I know I have to be prepared for both the great and not-so-great feedback too. But accepting the unfavourable moments is hard. It’s up to me to decide what I want to do with the feedback. I could mope over it or use it as a teachable moment and move forward. I won’t say I was able to smile cheerily but I wasn’t a crank about it either.
Over the weekend I tried to be all cool, poking into my salad and sipping on red wine. Of course, my husband had a sly grin on his face. He knows I like wine, but cold salads and vegetable smoothies make me restless. I’m trying, that’s all I can do, right? I’m Pinteresting recipes and enjoying the colours on my plate. Salads can make the plate look pretty fancy. Just that I don’t stay full very long after.
I’m happy to share that I’ve been very successful on the exercise front and have been making good use of my preloved Fitbit. I’ve been regular with my walks and don’t look at it as an annoying activity in my day. Oh and I’ve also made it my time for worship. It’s just lovely walking around the streets or parks looking at the Almighty’s creation and thanking him for the great, and tough moments in life. My heart swells with pride when I make the 10k steps mark. I know it’s not just my will-power that’s leading me to do what is right for my body. It’s God’s grace that is pushing me forward to stay focussed. I haven’t measured or weighed myself simply because the regular exercise and eating right is about staying fit and healthy this time. I don’t want to feel demotivated when the scale doesn’t move at the pace I want it to.
Dance parties have become a regular event at our place, my daughter and I being the only attendees. At 5 p.m. sharp we pull out our props and accessories and we hit the floor. Our current playlist has Rita Ora, Katy Perry, Fitz and the Tantrums, Maroon 5 on it. Liz Z knows the lyrics too. She has magic in her little paws and great dance timing. I get the exercise, she gets exclusive time with her mama.
In fact, I’ve been on such a roll, even my monthly visitor couldn’t stop me from grooving. Periods are not an excuse to be grouchy (accepted, some days are physically hard), there’s no mood that music can’t work its way through.
Best Shareable Moment This Month:
At my daughter’s school Christmas party in December the school had invited a few children from Camillian Home – a home for orphaned and abandoned children with special needs – to join in the festivities. Two representatives from the home shared a few details on the work their team does and how our families could participate in the lives of these children. My family unanimously agreed (my mother who was visiting us, included) to pay this home a visit. When we reached this home, I was beyond surprised. It wasn’t a run-down, abandoned shelter I was expecting to see. It was bright and clean with a lovely outdoor kiosk area and a large trampoline. The help staff were attentive and cheerful. I make a special note of their cheerfulness because these weren’t just abandoned children they were taking care of, they had special needs too … I know how challenging a little one can be … these volunteers had no relationship with the children and yet they were there doing what they do. The highlight of this surprise visit was a chirpy conversation with one of the inmates, a thirteen-year-old-boy. He had a magnetic spark in him. He wasn’t dressed in cool clothes, but he wore his best accessory, a heart-warming smile that came from within. He enjoyed showing off his flips on the trampoline and his limited English vocabulary. While showing us around (we weren’t able to meet the other inmates that day, we’d arrived during nap hours) he abruptly stopped at the notice board and pointed to a photograph of a teenage girl pinned to it. “My girlfriend” he claimed. I couldn’t stop smiling. There it was … LOVE … it didn’t matter that he and his friend were physically and mentally different from the rest of the world. They’d found their solace in each other … temporarily or forever. His ordinary love was extraordinary for me. We left feeling even more thankful for all we have. If you keep your eyes, ears, and heart open, you can learn life’s greatest teachings from the most unexpected places.
On that note, I’m happy with my effort this month. I went in with no expectations and I managed not to set the bar too high either with my results. So, until next time, enjoy your ordinary life and create extraordinary memories. Ciao!